The remix to Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s Grammy Award–winning song, “Despacito,” featuring Justin Bieber, continues to dominate, as it recently became the first Spanish-language song to reach 1 billion streams on Spotify. On the latest episode of The Bill Simmons Podcast, talent manager Scooter Braun told the story behind bringing the Latin hit to American radio and how he fought to keep the remix in Spanish.
Listen to the full podcast here. This transcript has been edited and condensed.
Bill Simmons: I think the inclusiveness of what basketball is doing and what seems to be working in music, [there] seems to be some parallels.
Scooter Braun: I think there’s a lot of parallels. I think at the end of the day, the user is the one who’s providing all the revenue anyway, so if you try to cut them off from being a creator, you lose.
BS: Well, how many views is “Despacito” up to?
SB: A lot. And we just crossed a billion streams on Spotify.
BS: A billion streams, and it’s like how many on YouTube?
SB: I haven’t even looked, it’s massive.
BS: Do you remember when you first heard that song?
SB: Yeah, they sent it to me to remix it with other artists, not Justin. And I cut a deal from my company to own the remix and I would handle putting together a remix, and then Justin was in South America and he heard the song, and he’s like, “Man, girls are going crazy for this,” and I said, “Well, I have the remix rights—if you want to do it, you have to do it this week.” And we talked about it, I sent Poo Bear—a writer we manage—in to write the English part, Justin said, “I’m going to do it in Spanish,” and I said, “Great, I think so too,” we talked about it and I said it’d be good for the Latin market. He sends it back to me, it sounds great, I’m really excited, I send it in, the radio guys call, the label calls, Luis Fonsi himself reaches out, “We want Justin to do it in English, we were hoping this would be an English version that we can get played on English radio,” and I said, “We’re not doing that,” and—
BS: You said, “Don’t you remember what happened with Nena and ‘99 Luftballons’?” Same thing.
SB: Well, you know what I did say? What I said is, “I did ‘Gangnam Style’ with Psy,” and I said, “If I can get a song in Korean all over the radio, I can get a song in Spanish.”
BS: Oh yeah, damn. That’s good, good one.
SB: And then I also said, “It’s really important we keep this in Spanish.” And I said, “Look, I’m putting it on me, we’re gonna work it”—my guy Mike Chester in my office like, “We’re gonna work it with you, and we’re going to break this with you, and if I’m wrong, we’ll do it in English, but I’m not wrong, we’re doing it in Spanish.” And I said, “We have a responsibility to do this in Spanish,” because I felt like over the last year, there’s so many American citizens who speak that language in their home and they felt less than. And I wanted to get a no. 1 on the radio that they could hear their native tongue and feel appreciated, and I was hoping to get it to no. 1 for a week, I didn’t expect it to go 16 weeks, but it was pretty awesome.
BS: You said, “Three days from now, I’m gonna call you back with four 12-year-old girls who have never heard this song before and I want you to hear their reactions, and they’re going to lose their fucking minds.”
SB: Once it went, there was no stopping it. It was just making people understand—I literally had to curse on a phone call and say, “It’s not changing to fucking English, stop asking me.”
BS: I always find out [about] pop music belatedly from my kids in the car when they tell me to put something on, and that one I knew right away. I heard like a minute and a half of it, and I was like, “Oh my God, this song’s a monster!” How do you make money from a song like that, though?
SB: I mean you get paid for every stream.
BS: Yeah, but explain that to me. How do you chase it down?
SB: We have companies that do that for you.
BS: They’re chasing down Spotify, Apple?
SB: The reason you sign with a major label and a major publisher is their responsibility is to chase down the money and pay you.
BS: How confident are you that you’re getting all the money?
SB: I audit. So yeah, that’s how I’m confident. I audit and make sure that I get all the money.
BS: So, is it safe to say that song made a ridiculous amount of money?
SB: The song did very well.
BS: Did very well! Like “very well,” like you can you buy the New Orleans Pelicans?
SB: Umm, I don’t know if I’m ...
BS: Throw your hat in the ring right now! Let’s make some news.
SB: You know what, I’m good on owning an NBA team if I live in Los Angeles, because I don’t want to fly all the way to New Orleans.
BS: OK. So, the Lakers when that finally falls apart.
SB: And I don’t think “Despacito” made me that much money.